In Italy, if you are not Roman Catholic, you can sometimes feel second class. And sometimes you really are treated as second class in religious matters.
But the Italian Evangelical Alliance rejects a sense of victimhood. They do not minimise the challenges that faith minorities face. But they do not want to be obsessed by them. Nor do they want Evangelicals withdrawing from society.
The Evangelical Alliance (EA) has made a deliberate decision to be as active as possible in praying and speaking up for Christians around the world whose persecution is so much worse than any problem within Italy.
“We do this because they are part of the Body of Christ and we know that they are hurting,” said Giacomo Ciccone, President of the EA. “But to focus on them is also good for us. By helping others, it puts our own difficulties into perspective.”
The EA does not have huge resources but, when covid-19 restrictions are not in the way, they regularly write to and meet with ambassadors of nations with persecution, hold prayer vigils outside embassies and organise meetings which focus political and media attention on the plight of Christians around the world. This October, they met at length with Sam Brownback, United States Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom.
The EA is especially passionate about China. In the last couple of years, the freedoms of the 80 million Christians there have dramatically worsened. “We really urge the EEA family to pray and speak up on their behalf!”
But, when issues in Italy are serious, the EA fights for religious freedom. Their biggest commitment in recent years has been to defend the Punto Luce Church in San Giuliano Milanese in court. The Lombardia region has a very unfair law permitting the closure of minority religious community buildings for feeble reasons. The Punto Luce Church was closed, it lost its court case but, since then, has won two appeals. The local council was willing to permit the church to reopen but the church and also the EA want to see the Lombardia law cancelled. So another court case looms.
Giacomo pointed out, “These court cases cost more than our annual budget but we know how important it is to fight for freedom.”